The country lifestyle some north Manatee County residents have grown accustomed to will be changing as a 720-unit apartment complex has been approved.
During Thursday’s land use meeting, the Manatee County Commission approved The Vorbeck Family Limited Partnership/Vorbeck Moccasin Wallow project, which calls for the apartments on approximately 138.56 acres on the south side of Moccasin Wallow Road and north of Amlong Road.
After a motion for denial failed, commissioners approved the apartment complex on a 4-3 vote with Commissioners Carol Whitmore, Steve Jonsson, Vanessa Baugh and Betsy Benac voting in favor of the apartments. Commissioners Robin DiSabatino, Priscilla Whisenant Trace and Charles Smith cast the dissenting votes.
“This is a tough one. I get it,” Benac said. “There are changes that are coming.”
Multifamily is being built all over Manatee County now, Benac said.
“We don’t rubber-stamp anything,” she said. “I don’t sit here for eight hours to rubber-stamp anything.”
The area is no longer considered rural, said Margaret Tusing, county planner.
“It is changing,” she said. “This area has changed dramatically over time.”
The Vorbeck apartments is just one of the housing projects commissioners approved Thursday. Commissioners also approved a general development plan for a 92-unit residential development on 10.55 acres located on the east side of 26th Street West between Cortez Road and 53rd Avenue West. While the specific housing type has yet to be decided for the Bradenton project, multifamily is an option.
“We do need the housing, and it is infill,” Whitmore said of the 92-unit project.
For the residents living along secluded Amlong Road, they spoke against the Vorbeck apartments, arguing that it is not consistent with the surrounding development.
“If it were single-family homes, I would not be here today,” said Mark Stinson, whose family has lived on Amlong Road for more than 50 years. “Our neighbors are close but not close enough. ... It is time to slow down. Catch-up is what we really have to do.”
Gail Amlong Calandra, who has lived along Amlong Road for 60 years, said she has no objection to progress.
“I have no problems with homes, two-story homes, and I have no problem with mobile homes,” she said.
The fact that it is an apartment complex doesn’t make it not compatible with the surrounding residential units, Tusing said.
“Residential is compatible with residential,” she said.
Scott Rudacille, who represents the applicant, said the applicant has changed the site plan to take into account the neighbors’ concerns. The number of apartment buildings was reduced to 26 buildings, which were brought more internal to the property, he added.
“This is an area of the county that has always been planned for significant growth,” he said. “The project is consistent with the development trends in the area.”
There is no connection to Amlong Road, Rudacille said, adding that the project is “oriented to Moccasin Wallow.”
“The owners have tried to be very responsive to the comments they’ve received,” he said.
Improvements are planned in the future for Moccasin Wallow Road, according to Clarke Davis, who is the county’s transportation planning manager.
“We should be able to widen the road within those limits,” he said.
Revenue from the half-cent infrastructure sales tax would be used to bring Moccasin Wallow Road up to current county standards while impact fees will be used to increase capacity along the road.
Pointing to all the development occurring and already approved for the area, DiSabatino asked, “Where is the tipping point?”
“You are going to have all this traffic,” she said. “How can it possibly support that? You are putting all of this in and then put in the roads afterward. It just makes no sense. ... I am just really puzzled at how we are going to handle all of this.”